Eleven hospitalised after incident at Poolbeg Incinerator

June 8th, 2017

Eleven workers at the Poolbeg Incinerator in Dublin were taken to hospital late yesterday evening as a result of the uncontrolled discharge of lime at the facility.

Covanta, the company which runs the Poolbeg incineration facility, stated that the incident is believed to have stemmed from the release of lime used in the treatment of waste. Exposure to lime can cause severe skin irritation, chemical burns, blindness and lung damage.

The affected workers, who had been removing scaffolding inside the plant, were given first aid before being taken to Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Co Dublin. Two of the eleven affected workers were kept overnight.

In a statement, Covanta said that “a small amount of lime was inadvertently released inside the flue gas treatment area”. The company believes the release of lime occurred due to a problem with a door seal in the fabric filter baghouse, where emissions of small hazardous particles that form as part of the burning process, are filtered.

The company said that a combustion unit operating at the time was shut down “in an orderly and controlled manner” and that the lime was contained and did not escape into the environment. In the statement, Covanta emphasised their commitment to the safety of their workers and indicated that they are investigating the incident.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, however, expressed grave concerns at the “extremely worrying'” incident, calling for activities at the facility to cease while an investigation is carried out by the proper authorities.

“We are extremely concerned at this incident happening so soon after incineration began at the site,” he added. “The authorities need to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible.”

The Green Party has been a constant opponent of the Poolbeg project since it was first mooted, stating that it does not fit in with a sustainable waste management strategy for the Dublin region.

Dublin Bay North Councillor O’Callaghan, whose constituency includes the Clontarf area adjacent to the incinerator, also called for the site to be temporarily closed pending an investigation by the Health and Safety Authority.

The Social Democrats councillor also expressed strong criticism of Covanta, stating that they have received a record number of fines in the United States for breaches of environmental protections and standards. “This serious discharge within days of operations commencing raises questions about the appointment of Covanta as operator,” he added.

Fianna Fáil Dublin City Councillor Paul McAuliffe called on Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan to hold an emergency information meeting for councillors to bring them up to speed on the incident at the plant.

“Health and Safety protocols at the site must be made sufficiently stringent to protect the human health of employees at the plant, locals in the greater South Dublin area and in particular local residents,” he said.

Once fully operational, the plant is expected to process 600,000 tonnes of municipal waste every year and generate enough electricity to power 80,000 homes.

About the Author

David Hayden

David is a contributor to the Green News. He has a Bachelor's Degree in International Business and French from UCD as well as a Master's Degrees in French literature and New Media from the University of California at San Diego and the Johns Hopkins University.